Friday, August 3, 2012

Debunking the Biggest Myths About the Houston Texans in 2012 - Bleacher Report

In the short history of the Houston Texans franchise, several myths have wrongfully been believed about the team. 

In recent years, two myths stand out as being completely and woefully incorrect. The first is that in the many years before the Texans finally became division champions, the team was incessantly being picked as a sleeper within the division and in the AFC. 

The Texans, however, were never able to wade out of the waters of mediocrity, and never were able to unseat the alpha dog Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

Another is that after Arian Foster's breakout season in 2010, many believed that the loss of Vonta Leach would cause Foster to just be a flash in the pan. The believers of this myth insinuated the fact that Leach was the primary reason for Foster's success, and that without him, Foster would never return to his elite level of play. 

Foster, though, had another spectacular season and was elected to the Pro Bowl yet again. 

Now, after the Texans have had a taste of glory, the media and fans around the league have started to place myths upon the newly improved Houston franchise. 

Myth: The Texans' Defense Will Struggle Without Mario Williams

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After Mario Williams left Houston for his huge payday in Buffalo, critics immediately cited this as proof that the Texans' defense would indeed regress in 2012.

This myth, however, is completely false, and the loss of Williams will not in any way be a reason for a decline in the drastically improved Texans' defense.

While Williams was on track for having a career season last year by totaling five sacks in five gamesâ€"his career best is 14 sacks in a single seasonâ€"his 2011 season was unfortunately cut short after he suffered a torn pectoral injury against the Oakland Raiders.

Instead of folding under the pressure of losing their best pass-rusher, the Texans' defense continued to adjust to Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme, and they actually improved as the season went on. The Texans finished the year with the No. 2-ranked defense, even though Williams did not play for the majority of the season.

Furthermore, it is expected that the Texans' pass-rush will continue to excel even more this upcoming season, as Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin will have more experience as starting outside linebackers, and that Whitney Mercilus will also be able to provide much needed relief off the bench.

This is not saying that the Texans would be better off without Williams; the fact is simply that he is no longer vital to the defense's success.

Myth: The Offensive Line Turnover Will Severely Affect Arian Foster's Success

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Arian Foster has not broke out onto the scene as one of the league's best running backs for no reason. He has all the qualities one looks for in an NFL running back: surprising speed, incredible vision, one-cut ability, impressive size and strength and a knack for making defenders miss. 

Despite all of these important attributes, many have claimed that Foster is simply a product of the system, and that the Texans' excellent offensive line has made him into what he is today. 

Much like the belief that Foster would not be able continue the success he garnered during his breakout year into the 2011 season due to the loss of Vonta Leach, it is believed that the losses of Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston will dramatically hinder the ability of Foster to play at a high level.

Although it is true that the offensive line should be considered and is one of the most concerning issues for the Texans, there are two reasons as to why this myth will not hold true.

One is that the likely replacements of Winston and Brisiel both have successful starting experience in the NFL. Antoine Caldwell and Rashad Butler have each filled in as starters on the Texans' offensive line on several occasions, and both have proven to be more than competent in Houston's zone-blocking offensive scheme. 

Furthermore, while the loss of Brisiel certainly hurts, Winston was above and beyond the weakest link on the offensive line last season. Despite a stellar 2010 season, Winston struggled guarding his assignments in 2011; he accounted for the majority of initial contact to both Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Butler should be able to step in and at least match the level of play of the weakest member of the line last season.

Caldwell also is more than equipped for his task of replacing Brisiel. Caldwell has competed with Brisiel for the starting right guard position for the majority of his career, and he could have won it in several occasions if not for devastating and untimely injuries.

Finally, Foster is not the type of back whose season would be sent into shambles due to a turnover on the offensive line. His talent and abundance of skills should not allow for that, and this perennial Pro Bowler has the ability to succeed, even with a slightly worse offensive line. 

Myth: The Texans Cannot Be as Injured as They Were Last Season

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Nothing is more fragile in the NFL than the health of each individual player. Injuries can strike any player on the field on any given time, on any given play.

Unfortunately for the Texans, they became much too familiar with this fact last season, as key players such as Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Mario Williams and Danieal Manning all went down to injury for significant amounts of time. 

While many Texans' fans hold firm to the belief that it is almost virtually impossible for last season's almost unbelievable bad luck with injury to ever be duplicated again, anything is possible when it comes to injuries in the NFL.

Already, in the opening days of training camp, four Texans' starters have already went down toâ€"albeit not season-threateningâ€"a string of scary injuries.

Andre Johnson has a groin injury, J.J. Watt has a dislocated elbow, Kareem Jackson is having hamstring issues and Duane Brown is resting off an ankle injury.

Going into next season, it is quite possible that injuries once again will be a major theme for the Houston Texans. Johnson has been dealing with a slew of injuries in the past few seasons, and his groin injury in camp is certainly not a positive sign. 

For Matt Schaub, it is extremely difficult to ever fully recover from a lisfranc injury, and he is also not exactly the most healthy and durable quarterback in the league.

Injuries can happen at any moment in the NFL to any player, and it is important to realize that a number of key players can succumb to injury at any point throughout the season.

Myth: The Texans Lost a Key Play-Maker in DeMeco Ryans

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Before the arrival of Wade Phillips and his 3-4 defensive scheme, DeMeco Ryans was by far one of the most important players on the Texans' defense. With a transition of defensive schemes, however, there is always bound to be a few hiccups.

Unfortunately for Houston, that hiccup happened to be none other than the vocal and physical leader of the defense. That is why it is dumbfounding that the media and fans so highly criticized the trade that sent Ryans to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Ryans could not adjust to the Texans 3-4 defense, which caused him to play around only 50 percent of the team's defensive snaps. That is the percentage that one typically sees of an important backup, not a superstar linebacker. 

In fact, it is quite possible that the percentage could have been even lower if Darryl Sharpton had not been placed on the IR early in the year.

To make the loss of Ryans even less significant, the Texans went out and signed Bradie James, a player who not only played in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense, but actually excelled in it. James, too, was a vital leader for his defense, and he led the Dallas Cowboys in tackles for six straight seasons.

The loss of Ryans will be made up by the play of Brian Cushing and the addition of James to the defense. Also, if Sharpton can continue his high level of play that he maintained before his injury when he finally returns healthy, then Ryans' departure from the team might seem even less noticeable.

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